An Open Letter to Melvin Larkins ’18

Dear Melvin,

It’s often said that high school years fly by quickly and that adage seems particularly true to me as I reflect on your four years at St. Thomas.   It seems like only yesterday I was spending nearly every weekend in a crowded gym in Channelview.  When Coach McGuire and I arrived to watch George, Drake, and Knowledge, little did we know that the most significant moment of those trips would be getting wind of a gifted athlete from Pershing who also proudly served as class president.

The Basilian mission was a perfect fit for a student like you and it helped get you on campus.  To be honest, some teachers expressed doubts and questioned: “So we only help athletes now?”  To your credit, it only took two weeks before they had completely changed their tune.  Those same teachers would brag to me, “Melvin is so good in class” and “I’m so glad he’s here!”

After school one day, Mrs. Connor was moving boxes to her car.  As a group of inattentive boys watched her struggle balancing the boxes and getting through the doors,  you stepped up and took care of everything for her.   The next day, she emailed your mom and complimented her on raising such a fine young man.  Truth be told, that’s just one of the countless stories that have been told about your character and generosity and I know that’s the type of phone call your mom has happily received plenty of times.

There have been so many great memories of watching you compete for the Eagles, but a few stand out to me:

  • During your freshman year playing varsity basketball, we beat Concordia in a big district match-up.  Their coach looked at me wide-eyed, worried about the reality of having to face you three more years.
  • There was the bloody game against Episcopal.  The coaches were searching for answers and asked you, a linebacker, to match up with a nationally-ranked wideout.  A lot of players would have come up with excuses, but you just locked in and forced the Knights to find another way to score.
  • In your sophomore year with less than a week removed from the gridiron, you started against Strake and the EBN announcers raved about the young bull being a difference maker against our rival.
  • Prior to that, we had a crazy game in Stafford and despite the chaos and the ejection, you and the twins played with poise and won that road game for us.
  • On our run to the final four, I saw you pin a shot off the backboard, get the rebound, throw an outlet pass, run the floor and then finish the play by tipping in your teammates’ miss.
  • When we beat Pius on their home floor, I saw you play in pain, pushing yourself so hard that you struggled to walk to the locker room after the final buzzer.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time I had seen you dealing with pain.  After your injury in New Orleans, I was struggling to understand what God is trying to teach us in these moments and why you got injured.  When I asked you how you were doing, you said “God always has a plan for me.  He’s never let me down.” I was inspired by you in that moment and remain so today.  I am supposed to be your teacher, but what I have taught you is dwarfed by what I have learned from observing the way you comport yourself.  Others have been similarly impacted: when asking St. Thomas coaches for an example of perseverance, we didn’t need to resort to an example of a professional athlete and unanimously agreed it was you.

You were always taught to put God first, and it has been a joy to watch you represent your family and your faith with grace and honor.  It’s not hard to see where you draw these characteristics from, as your family was equally loved for all that they brought to the school and the athletic program.  Your mom was always thankful and supportive, and my wife missed your sister being an honorary cheerleader at games this season.  Every coach and teacher here is going to miss you and is proud of all that you’ve done and who you’ve become.  I look forward to seeing what you accomplish from here, and I implore you to attack life with the hunger and humility I have seen you put into action these past four years.

Best regards,

Coach Kwok